200528 - An old Islamic school writing board from Harar - Ethiopia


An old school writing board, from Ethiopia - Harar.
Length: 60 cm Width: 17 cm.
Although nominally a Christian country, Ethiopia has a large population of Muslims, as well as many tribes who belong to neither religion, and have animist beliefs. Writing boards were used instead of paper, an expensive import, at schools attached to mosques, or at classes held in the tents of nomads. Their use extended throughout the countries of northern Africa, from Mauritania on the Atlantic Coast in the west, to Somalia on the Indian Ocean coast, in the east. Pupils, whose first language was not usually Arabic, were taught first the Arabic alphabet, then religious phrases, progressing to extracts from the Qur'an, and prayers. The ink used was a charcoal and water mixture, which could be washed off, and the board re-used. Pens were a short length of reed, cut at an angle to form a nib. Earlier writing is still visible.